The 7 “Rs” of Wire Fraud Scams And How to Spot Them

Be on the alert for these red flags that could signal a wire fraud scam.

Don Milne Aug 21, 2019

For most transactions, it is convenient to use a debit card or credit card — or maybe even an “old-fashioned” form of payment like a check or cash. But for big transactions, you may not have a high enough credit card limit and you may not want to carry around a suitcase full of cash. In cases like this, one of the most popular payment methods is to pay via a bank wire transfer.

When this happens, your funds are moved from your account at your bank to the account at the recipient’s bank. When used legitimately, it is an easy way to move large amounts of money.

Unfortunately, thieves have discovered wire transfers are also a great way to steal money.

To avoid becoming a victim, keep your eyes peeled for the “7 R’s” of wire fraud.

Wire fraud scam #1: Rong speling

Many wire frauds originate from outside the country and are perpetrated by non-English speakers. That might explain bad spelling. But it may also be the case that these thieves have figured out that people who don’t notice misspelled words may also be the same kind of people who overlook warning signs that they are being scammed.

Wire fraud scam #2: Return email address is wrong

Check and double check return email addresses to see if you’re being spoofed. 

Wire fraud scam #3: Rush the money

If the party you are wiring funds to insists on rushing things, it’s a clue that it’s a scam. Scammers are often receiving funds in a legitimate account that they have hacked. They want the money fast so they can move it before the real owner of the account discovers the breach.

Wire fraud scam #4: Romance

Lonely elders or other single people are ripe targets for wire scammers. After spending time to develop an affectionate relationship, usually online, the scammer will request a wire to help out a family member with an emergency. There is no family member. There is no emergency. There is no real romance. The setup was all a scam.

Wire fraud scam #5: Refusing phone calls

Because scammers are not who they say they are, a person-to-person phone call might catch them in a mistake, so they come up with all kinds of excuses to only communicate through email.

Wire fraud scam #6: Request that is out of the ordinary

A scammer might do something weird like wire you some money and then ask you to pay for something from your account. Does that sound normal? After you spend your money, the wire is reversed because the funds were never there, and you are out the money you spent.

Wire fraud scam #7: Revised Instructions

If you have a wire set up and at the last moment there is a request to use a different account, that may be a case of a legitimate transaction being hijacked.

When you are dealing with thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, you can’t afford to let your guaRRRRRRRd down. Otherwise, you will join the growing club of wire fraud victims.

Feeling uneasy about a request to wire money? Zions Bankers are available to help. Find a Zions Bank branch near you to speak with a financial professional.

Don Milne is Financial Literacy manager for Zions Bank. 

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